Peretz to begin 'free Barghouti' drive

Says release of top Fatah terrorist would prevent further bloodshed, calls for Hamas talks.

Peretz 224.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Peretz 224.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Former defense minister Amir Peretz will begin a campaign after Pessah, which celebrates freedom, to bring about the release of Fatah terrorist Marwan Barghouti. Barghouti was convicted of murder and sentenced to five life sentences in prison for killing Jews and a Christian monk during the second Intifada. But he is also a rising star in Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah and his likely successor. In a speech at a pre-Pessah toast for Labor activists loyal to him, Peretz said that after the holiday, he would visit the families of Barghouti's victims and ask them to publicly press for Barghouti's release. "I will tell them there is a leader respected by the Palestinian people and we need him out of jail, so he could run the PA together with Abu Mazen," Peretz said. "With all the pain I feel for the blood that [they] shed, we need this move to prevent further bloodshed." Peretz also called for talks with Hamas," because we need to make peace with all the Palestinians and not just some of them." The event was intended to allow Peretz to flex his muscles amid his ongoing rivalry with his successor, Ehud Barak. Hundreds of supporters packed the party's headquarters in Tel Aviv's Hatikva quarter. Peretz used the event to call for reconciliation with Barak, while at the same time warning him that he and other Labor officials could bypass him to make the key decisions needed for the party's future. "We wanted to decide the diplomatic path of the party, but you didn't want to do it, so we will do it without you," Peretz said. "We want to go on a path together with you, but not if you try to silence the voices of the people here and the grassroots of this party." Peretz said he received a phone call on Tuesday from Barak, inviting him to meet with him and even join the cabinet. But it turned out it was an impersonator who was taking advantage of April Fool's Day. Peretz urged the impersonator to call Barak and do the same. Science, Culture and Sport Minister Ghaleb Majadleh and MKs Ephraim Sneh and Yoram Marciano came to the event and praised Peretz. Other MKs who supported Peretz in the past did not show up. "We can't cover up the grim reality," Sneh said. "Labor is in a financial, ideological and political crisis. I have been in the party for 20 years, and I don't remember it ever being this bad. When there are negotiations with the Palestinians, it cannot be that we in Labor are not doing everything possible to encourage it. It cannot be that Labor is not advancing socioeconomic issues. I think we can end this crisis if this party redefines its core principles and plays the game transparently and fairly." Marciano accused Barak's loyalists of leaking a false story that he and Peretz were looking to break off from Labor or form a new party. "They tried to show me the door, but they'll leave before me," Marciano said. "I grew up in this party and I don't have any other party. If people want to show us the door, there won't be a party and there won't be a State of Israel."